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Sweatshops in the United States Americans love to shop. With malls everywhere you go, shopping just might be America's favorite past time! When you are out shopping though, do you ever stop to think where all of those clothes and shoes come from? When I was younger, well, actually until recently, I always thought they were all made by machines. Shirt machines, pants machines…you get the picture. I have learned, however, that for the most part, clothes are still made on sewing machines, by people, and often under circumstances that we can only imagine. Sweatshops have always been a problem in the Unites States, especially during the past century. Unfair working conditions and pay prompted the formation of the Garment Worker Union. This was the first union of its kind, and helped organize campaigns demanding for shorter work weeks, fair pay, and paid holidays for the garment workers. In March of 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Manhattan. 146 garment workers perished in the fire. Days later, 80,000 people participated in a funeral procession up 5th Avenue. This tragedy, and its enormous public response, prompted the federal government to take action and establish control over the industry. In 1938, major legislation passed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) guaranteed a $.25 an hour minimum wage, prohibited child labor, and required that employers keep adequate time and payroll records. In 1958 the largest nationwide strike in history, with 100,000 union members walking out of factories occurred. They won more holidays and higher wages. Conditions were at an all time high for the workers. This soon came to pass, however, as many manufacturers and retailers begin subcontracting to manufacturers in other countries where, according to the National Labor Committee, workers would work for as little as $.09 an hour. Due to the increased foreign competition, sweatshops again begin flourishing in the United States. Today, sweatshops in the United States garment industry are a tremendous problem. The Department of Labor estimates that of the 22,000 clothing contractors in the United States, approximately half do not even pay the prevailing minimum wage. Many use illegal immigrants to work; some even use child labor. A 1996 survey of just California garment firms found that 99% were in vio... ... middle of paper ... ...creasing the competition of foreign countries. Unfortunately, however, many companies have beaten that trick with a trick of their own. As reported in an article from People's Weekly World, Wal-Mart 'Little Leaguer'; garments bear labels that say they are made in the United States, yet they were actually made in Haiti. Who knows how many other companies do the same. The Department of Labor's No Sweat Campaign recommends three ways to consumers to investigate whether clothing is 'No Sweat.'; Ask retailers questions about where and how garments are made, ask them whether they independently monitor garment manufacturers, and whether they support 'No Sweat'; clothing. It seems simple, but remember, the retailers work for us. The sweatshop problem is not one that will probably go away anytime in the near future. As reported in Business Week, 'consumers want clothes made in decent factories offering decent pay- but they also want cheap goods. It's hard to give them both.'; The problem has been recognized, and if everyone, consumers, retailers, and the government alike, do their part, maybe the future of the United States garment industry will not be as bleak as its past, or its present.

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